Rev Dr Edgar Mayer; Living Grace Toowoomba Church
Sermon Series: Supernatural Ways Of Royalty – 07 (Chapters 12-13) – Doing Them Ourselves; Date: 08 January 2012
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[The material is for preaching over two sessions.]
Doing Them Ourselves
Jesus performed miracles and none was greater than the one where he commanded a dead person – his name was Lazarus – a person who had been dead for four days – a decomposing corpse – to come out of his grave. This morning – do you need a miracle? Then, learn from this one. In the Bible account – which we will read in a moment – you can identify the character and heart of God towards you and also the many components and principles which God uses to do the supernatural here on earth. This is important for us as a church. We need to take a hold of this because after the miracle of raising a dead person to life – and many others – Jesus made his disciples a promise. He said – John 14:12-14:
“I assure you, whoever believes in me will do the works I have been doing, and they will do even greater things than these, because I am going to the Father. And I will do whatever you ask in my name, so that the Father may be glorified in the Son. You may ask me for anything in my name, and I will do it.”
[Acts 4:29-30: “Now Lord, … enable your servants to speak your word with great boldness by stretching out your hand to heal and perform miraculous signs and wonders through the name of your holy servant Jesus.” Acts 14:3: “ … the Lord . confirmed the message of his grace by enabling them to do miraculous signs and wonders.” Acts 8:6: “When the crowd heard Philip and saw the miraculous signs he did, they all paid close attention to what he said.”
1 Corinthians 2:1-5: “ … My message and my preaching were not with wise and persuasive words, but with a demonstration of the Spirit’s power, so that your faith might not rest on human wisdom, but on God’s power.” Romans 15:18-19: “ … what Christ has accomplished through me in leading the Gentiles to obey God by what I have said and done – by the power of signs and miracles, through the power of the Spirit … I have fully proclaimed the gospel of Christ.”]
This morning – do you need a miracle? Good – expect one – but – as a church – (in a sense) – we need to do them ourselves. Jesus – after saving us – returned to heaven but not without giving us a job. An amazing job! Imagine – he said to continue his work on earth – do the works he has been doing – which include miracles – (must include miracles) – of the same magnitude as Jesus’ miracles – even greater ones. (If you are a visitor, I don’t know where you are coming from but this is also an invitation to you) – Do you want to explore working with miracles? Then, you cannot do better than learn from this one.
I read from the Bible:
John 11:1-44: Now a man named Lazarus was sick. He was from Bethany, the village of Mary and her sister Martha. (This Mary, whose brother Lazarus now lay sick, was the same one who poured perfume on the Lord and wiped his feet with her hair.) So the sisters sent word to Jesus, “Lord, the one you love is sick.”
When he heard this, Jesus said, “This sickness will not end in death. No, it is for God’s glory so that God’s Son may be glorified through it.” Now Jesus loved Martha and her sister and Lazarus. So when he heard that Lazarus was sick, he stayed where he was two more days, and then he said to his disciples, “Let us go back to Judea.”
“But Rabbi,” they said, “a short while ago the Jews there tried to stone you, and yet you are going back?” Jesus answered, “Are there not twelve hours of daylight? Anyone who walks in the daytime will not stumble, for they see by this world’s light. It is when a person walks at night that they stumble, for they have no light.”
After he had said this, he went on to tell them, “Our friend Lazarus has fallen asleep; but I am going there to wake him up.” His disciples replied, “Lord, if he sleeps, he will get better.” Jesus had been speaking of his death, but his disciples thought he meant natural sleep. So then he told them plainly, “Lazarus is dead, and for your sake I am glad I was not there, so that you may believe. But let us go to him.” Then Thomas (also known as Didymus) said to the rest of the disciples, “Let us also go, that we may die with him.”
On his arrival, Jesus found that Lazarus had already been in the tomb for four days. Now Bethany was less than two miles from Jerusalem, and many Jews had come to Martha and Mary to comfort them in the loss of their brother. When Martha heard that Jesus was coming, she went out to meet him, but Mary stayed at home.
“Lord,” Martha said to Jesus, “if you had been here, my brother would not have died. But I know that even now God will give you whatever you ask.” Jesus said to her, “Your brother will rise again.” Martha answered, “I know he will rise again in the resurrection at the last day.” Jesus said to her, “I am the resurrection and the life. The one who believes in me will live, even though they die; and whoever lives by believing in me will never die. Do you believe this?” “Yes, Lord,” she replied, “I believe that you are the Messiah, the Son of God, who is to come into the world.”
After she had said this, she went back and called her sister Mary aside. “The Teacher is here,” she said, “and is asking for you.” When Mary heard this, she got up quickly and went to him. Now Jesus had not yet entered the village, but was still at the place where Martha had met him. When the Jews who had been with Mary in the house, comforting her, noticed how quickly she got up and went out, they followed her, supposing she was going to the tomb to mourn there.
When Mary reached the place where Jesus was and saw him, she fell at his feet and said, “Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died.” When Jesus saw her weeping, and the Jews who had come along with her also weeping, he was deeply moved in spirit and troubled. “Where have you laid him?” he asked. “Come and see, Lord,” they replied.
Jesus wept. Then the Jews said, “See how he loved him!” But some of them said, “Could not he who opened the eyes of the blind man have kept this man from dying?”
Jesus, once more deeply moved, came to the tomb. It was a cave with a stone laid across the entrance. “Take away the stone,” he said. “But, Lord,” said Martha, the sister of the dead man, “by this time there is a bad odour, for he has been there four days.” Then Jesus said, “Did I not tell you that if you believe, you will see the glory of God?”
So they took away the stone. Then Jesus looked up and said, “Father, I thank you that you have heard me. I knew that you always hear me, but I said this for the benefit of the people standing here, that they may believe that you sent me.”
When he had said this, Jesus called in a loud voice, “Lazarus, come out!” The dead man came out, his hands and feet wrapped with strips of linen, and a cloth around his face. Jesus said to them, “Take off the grave clothes and let him go.”
Mary and Martha – the friends of Jesus sent him a message: “Lord, the one you love is sick.” Mary and Martha had a brother – Lazarus – and he was in a bad way. The message to Jesus was desperate: “Lord, the one you love is sick.”
For us – usually – there is only one way that Jesus should have responded: Hurry. Drop everything, come from where you are to Bethany, lay your hands on Lazarus and heal him. “Jesus, this is an emergency!”
Sometimes – others – the disciples even – friends of Lazarus even – advise caution. This is what they said to Jesus – John 11:8: “Teacher, a short while ago people [original: the Jews] tried to stone you, and yet you are going back there?” They were right. It would have been unwise to go and do another healing miracle in Bethany because this was the region where even church people resented Jesus’ demonstrations of power. Why make trouble as a Christian? This was serious. The previous Bible chapter records the following drama – John 10:31-32: “Again his Jewish opponents picked up stones to stone him, but Jesus said to them, ‘I have shown you many great miracles from the Father. For which of these do you stone me?’” John 10:38-39: “‘... even though you do not believe me, believe the miracles, that you may know and understand that the Father is in me, and I in the Father.’ Again they tried to seize him, but he escaped their grasp.”
Nothing rails “stubborn” people as much as miracles. Those that are comfortable with their traditions – comfortable with their life-style – comfortable with their status – they smile at Christians when they feed the poor or shelter the homeless – they don’t even mind some pious words on public occasions (e.g. public funeral service) – but miracles are a different matter because miracles are evidence of power which forces a decision. People hated Jesus because he said to them: “Look at the power that is demonstrated in my miracles. You have to rethink my preaching. I am speaking the truth. God is with me. Believe in me.” These days – there are still people who don’t like being confronted with miracles. They may not pick up stones but simply shut their ears and walk away in denial or judgement. Therefore – some of Jesus’ entourage advised him to be cautious. Why upset people with too much reality from heaven? And they might have added: “Jesus, let the crowd not be stirred by miracles but simply worship God. Tone down the supernatural.”
Yet, Jesus listened to no one. He neither hurried to Bethany – he neither rushed to the side of Lazarus – nor did he cancel the trip. He followed an altogether different strategy. I read again from the Bible – John 11:4-6: “When he received the message, Jesus said, ‘This sickness will not end in death. No, it is for God’s glory so that God’s Son may be glorified through it.’ Jesus loved Martha and her sister and Lazarus. Yet when he heard that Lazarus was sick, he stayed where he was two more days.” Then – having lingered for forty-eight hours somewhere else – Jesus said – John 11:11: “Our friend Lazarus has fallen asleep – [he is dead now]; but I am going there to wake him up.”
What was Jesus doing? When we need a miracle – when the need is urgent (e.g.: finances, health, court case) – when we need a breakthrough right now – we don’t always appreciate this kind of response. There was no question that Jesus loved Mary and Martha and Lazarus – he loved all of them – but was this love – “dawdling” on the road? Jesus took his time – delayed his help – and none of us – (at least I do not) – appreciates the delay. He could have saved the sisters so much agony. Jesus could have spared Mary and Martha the agony of watching their brother die. Why didn’t he do it? If he loves you – why doesn’t he cut down the time of worry? Why does “everything” have to be last minute with him – in the case of Lazarus even a fair few minutes past the last minute of his life?
Jesus spelled out the answer: “This sickness will not end in death. No, it is for God’s glory so that God’s Son may be glorified through it.” Whatever would happen with Lazarus would glorify God and from this angle Jesus’ delay makes sense. If he had rushed to Bethany, laid his hand on the sick man and healed him, everyone would have said: “Yes, we knew that Jesus could do this” (see also John 11:21,32,37). It would have been wonderful but also nothing new – (as the miracle of gold dust is no longer new among us) – and people would simply accept the healing – (it would be within their frame of reference) – and go on with their business. However, this time Jesus wanted to make a bigger splash. Instead of a supernatural healing, there would be an even greater miracle – the raising of a dead person from his grave – with the clear objective of bringing glory to God which would glorify Jesus.
Do you want a miracle that glorifies Jesus? Then, don’t be surprised when God lets your problem become absolutely hopeless before he rescues you because only when all other avenues have been exhausted do people realize that only God can be relied on – and no one else – no human fall-back plan or insurance. [This is what he does with those he loves. It is a privilege to be used by God in this way.] Maybe this is what God is doing presently with our church finances. The delay of the miracle may not be the best for our nervous disposition but his glory is surely increasing. A dead man – a dead cause – a dead heart – a dead money stream – comes alive by the power of God through Jesus Christ.
This brings us to another point – and judging by the space given to this theme – a most important point for Jesus. Mary and Martha should have relaxed while they were waiting for him. Jesus had told them: “This sickness will not end in death.” Jesus had promised them that Lazarus would be safe from death. Why not take Jesus by his word? Their faith was of the essence. Jesus put the highest value on faith. Only – the people around Jesus – those closest to him – proved to be loyal – with beautiful hearts – faithful and dedicated to him – but also severely constrained in their level of faith. They could not imagine the impossible – they could not deal with the delay – but (for Jesus) this would not do. Jesus spent time pushing them into some kind of faith because the miracle – and future miracles – were to operate also by their faith. This is important. You – many a time – participate in the miracle that God is providing for you. It may just be a small contribution – a tiny investment of trust in Jesus – “mustard seed faith” – but it is important.
Setting up the miracle of raising Lazarus from the dead – Jesus called for faith. He first worked on his disciples. I read again the verses from the Bible – John 11:12-16: “After he had said this, he went on to tell them, ‘Our friend Lazarus has fallen asleep; but I am going there to wake him up.’ His disciples replied, ‘Lord, if he sleeps, he will get better.’ Jesus had been speaking of his death, but his disciples thought he meant natural sleep. So then he told them plainly, ‘Lazarus is dead, and for your sake I am glad I was not there, so that you may believe. But let us go to him.’ Then Thomas (also known as Didymus) said to the rest of the disciples, ‘Let us also go, that we may die with him.’”
No one had told them but Jesus knew that Lazarus had died and explained to his disciples that he would raise him from the dead. He made his intentions crystal-clear: “Lazarus is dead but I am going there to wake him up.” Jesus further clarified that he would do so “that they may believe”. This miracle was to grow their faith – they were to aim for the impossible – but then Thomas said to the rest of the disciples: “Let us also go, that we may die with him.”
Disappointing in a sense but how can you criticize a Christian like Thomas? He loved Jesus. He was ready to die for him. He was willing to go into enemy territory – where people had previously picked up stones against Jesus because of miracles – but he had not listened to Jesus. He had not expanded his mind and begun to dream about the impossible. He had no faith for raising the dead or doing any greater works than Jesus himself.
Then, Jesus met the two sisters – Mary and Martha – outside of Bethany – away from the mourning crowds and the environment of tears and unbelief (see also Luke 8:51). [The mourners were in the majority, had the evidence on their side but you want to keep the promise alive in you.] Martha came out to Jesus first. I read – John 11:20-27: “When Martha heard that Jesus was coming, she went out to meet him, but Mary stayed at home. ‘Lord,’ Martha said to Jesus, ‘if you had been here, my brother would not have died. But I know that even now God will give you whatever you ask.’ Jesus said to her, ‘Your brother will rise again.’ Martha answered, ‘I know he will rise again in the resurrection at the last day.’ Jesus said to her, ‘I am the resurrection and the life. The one who believes in me will live, even though they die; and whoever lives by believing in me will never die. Do you believe this?’ ‘Yes, Lord,’ she replied, ‘I believe that you are the Messiah, the Son of God, who is to come into the world.’”
Martha was not in a bad place. She was certain that if Jesus had been present, her brother would not have died and she kept exercising trust, saying: “Even now God will give you whatever you ask.” (Mary also had this kind of faith. See John 11:32.) However, her boldness had limitations. When Jesus told her in plain words: “Your brother will rise again,” Martha did not enlarge her faith but play it safe. She was hiding behind some other accepted truth, saying: “I know my brother will rise again in the resurrection at the last day.” Right – only Jesus meant a resurrection now and not at the end of time. Martha was doing what many Christians also do today. When confronted with a promise that requires faith, we – many a time – shy away from committing ourselves to trust Jesus. Instead we play it safe – hiding behind some other Bible truths such as: “The Lord giveth; the Lord taketh away.” “We live by faith – not by sight.” “But godliness with contentment is great gain” (1 Timothy 6:6).
Yet, Jesus did not let the matter rest. He established again the foundation – the core belief – for anything in the Christian life – John 11:25-27: “Jesus said to her, ‘I am the resurrection and the life. The one who believes in me will live, even though they die; and whoever lives by believing in me will never die. Do you believe this?’ ‘Yes, Lord,’ she replied, ‘I believe that you are the Messiah, the Son of God, who is to come into the world.’”
Miracles are always all about Jesus. He performs them and they bring glory to him. He is the source of our salvation. He is the resurrection and the life. Whoever believes in him will live even though they die. Whoever lives the life of faith will never die but have eternal life through him.
John 1:10-13: He was in the world, and though the world was made through him, the world did not recognize him. He came to that which was his own, but his own did not receive him. Yet to all who did receive him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God—children born not of natural descent, nor of human decision or a husband’s will, but born of God.
John 3:16-18: For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him. Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe stands condemned already because they have not believed in the name of God’s one and only Son.
Wherever Jesus is, there is life – supernatural life – eternal life – conquering any limitations of this natural world. Martha was again learning this but then Jesus required her to apply this truth to the concrete promise of her brother’s healing now. Because if you want the miracle, you have to trust and then act on your trust. When it came for Jesus to raise Lazarus from the dead, this is what happened – John 11:38-41: “Jesus, once more deeply moved, came to the tomb. It was a cave with a stone laid across the entrance. ‘Take away the stone,’ he said. ‘But, Lord,’ said Martha, the sister of the dead man, ‘by this time there is a bad odour, for he has been there four days.’ Then Jesus said, ‘Did I not tell you that if you believe, you will see the glory of God?’ So they took away the stone ... “
Martha objected to removing the stone from the tomb of her brother and she had good reasons for her resistance. After four days of decay – there was already a smell hanging around the tomb. It would not have made sense to proceed with any ministry. Yet, Jesus required her obedience and explained why: “Did I not tell you that if you believe, you will see the glory of God?” Martha heard Jesus – and (at the time) she may not have believed much at all – maybe she just obeyed without thinking much at all – but she acted on Jesus’ instructions. They took away the stone and Jesus worked with this kind of faith action. Lazarus came out of his grave alive.
[Sometimes faith is not so much how you feel. It is what you do. We may be used to a clear distinction between faith and works but faith is also not passive – but acts on God’s promises. Cf. Abraham and Jesus in the wilderness.]
[Compare this with our faith action of moving our bodies after healing prayer and check on the healing. We also have other faith actions: We raise our hands asking for healing. We come forward for healing prayer.]
Miracles work by faith. Jesus frequently spelled out that a person’s faith played a crucial role in achieving the healing and he frequently required a faith action to accomplish healing miracles:
Again and again Jesus said to the person in front of him – Matthew 9:22: “ … your faith has healed you … “ Luke 18:42: “ … Receive your sight; your faith has healed you.” Then frequently a faith action was required to complete the healing. To a man with a shrivelled hand Jesus said – Mark 3:5: “Stretch out your hand.” When the man stretched it out, his hand was completely restored. John 9:6-7: “Having said this, Jesus spit on the ground, made some mud with the saliva, and put it on the man’s eyes. ‘Go,’ he told him, ‘wash in the Pool of Siloam’ … So the man went and washed, and [healing came through that faith action and he] came home seeing.” Luke 17:14: “ … ‘Go, show yourselves to the priests.’ And as they went, they were cleansed.”
Our faith in general is important to Jesus. It is so important to him that he is always at work growing, refining and testing our faith. You may consider the following Bible verses:
Mark 6:5-6: He could not do any miracles there, except lay his hands on a few sick people and heal them. He was amazed at their lack of faith.
Hebrews 11:6: And without faith it is impossible to please God, because anyone who comes to him must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who earnestly seek him.
Hebrews 4:2: For we also have had the gospel preached to us, just as they did; but the message they heard was of no value to them, because those who heard did not combine it with faith.
1 Peter 1:7: These [trials] have come so that your faith – of greater worth than gold, which perishes even though refined by fire – may be proved genuine and may result in praise, glory and honour when Jesus Christ is revealed.
2 Thessalonians 1:3: …your faith is growing more and more, and the love every one of you has for each other is increasing.
Ephesians 3:12: In him and through faith in him we may approach God with freedom and confidence.
Galatians 3:22: But the Scripture declares that the whole world is a prisoner of sin, so that what was promised, being given through faith in Jesus Christ, might be given to those who believe.
Ephesians 2:8: For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith – and this not from yourselves – it is the gift of God.
At this point – I may expand on the theme of faith by telling the testimony of John Bunyan – (the author of the all-time bestseller book “A Pilgrim’s Progress”). This is how he acquired the faith for the greatest – and most important miracle – in his own life: peace with God in eternity. As you can see in the testimony – and you may identify with him – the struggle for the miracle of saving faith is not always an easy one but salvation is by faith:
[John Bunyan (28 November 1628 – 31 August 1688) was arguably the last and the greatest of the Puritans. An uneducated tinker by training, Bunyan spent nearly fourteen years of his life in prison because he refused to stop preaching the gospel without a license. Nonetheless, even the eminent Puritan theologian John Owen often came to hear him preach and once said of him, "I would give all my knowledge for the wisdom of John Bunyan." During his many years in prison, Bunyan left a remarkable legacy through his many books, the best known of which is “Pilgrim’s Progress”, which has become the best-selling book of all time other than the Bible.]
NOW you must know, that before this I had taken much delight in ringing; but my conscience beginning to be tender; I thought such a practice was but vain, and therefore forced myself to leave it, yet my mind hankered; wherefore I would go to the steeple-house and look on, though I durst not ring. But I thought this did not become religion neither, yet I forced myself, and would look on still; but quickly after I began to think, how if one of the bells should fall? Then I chose to stand under a main beam that lay overthwart the steeple from side to side, thinking here I might stand sure; but then I thought again, should the bell fall with a swing, it might first hit the wall, and then rebounding upon me, might kill me for all this beam. This made me stand in the steeple-door; and now, thought I, I am safe enough, for if the bell should fall I can slip out behind these thick walls, and so be preserved notwithstanding. So after this I would yet go to see them ring, but would not go any further than the steeple-door; but then it came into my head, how if the steeple itself should fall? And this thought—it may be for aught I know when I stood and looked on—did continually so shake my mind that I durst not stand at the steeple-door any longer, but was forced to flee for fear the steeple should fall upon my head.
Another thing was my dancing: I was full a year before I could quite leave that. All this while, when I thought I kept this or that command, or did by word or deed anything I thought was good, I had great peace in my conscience, and would think with myself, God cannot choose but be now pleased with me; yea, to relate it in my own way, I thought no man in England could please God better than I. But, poor wretch as I was, I was all this while ignorant of Jesus Christ, and going about to establish my own righteousness, and had perished therein, had not God in mercy showed me more of my state by nature.
But upon a day the good providence of God called me to Bedford to work at my calling, and in one of the streets of that town I came where there were three or four poor women sitting at a door in the sun talking about the things of God: and being now willing to hear their discourse, I drew near to hear what they said, for I was now a brisk talker of myself in the matters of religion; but I may say I heard, but understood not, for they were far above out of my reach. Their talk was about a new birth, the work of God in their hearts, as also how they were convinced of their miserable state by nature; they talked how God had visited their souls with his love in the Lord Jesus, and with what words and promises they had been refreshed, comforted, and supported against the temptations of the devil; moreover, they reasoned of the suggestions and temptations of Satan in particular, and told to each other by what means they had been afflicted, and how they were borne up under his assaults. They also discoursed of their own wretchedness of heart and of their unbelief, and did condemn, slight, and abhor their own righteousness as filthy and insufficient to do them any good.
And methought they spoke as if joy did make them speak; they spoke with such pleasantness of scripture language, and with such appearance of grace in all they said, that they were to me as if they had found a new world—as if they were people that dwelt alone, and were not to be reckoned among their neighbours. At this I felt my own heart begin to shake and mistrust my condition to be naught, for I saw that in all my thoughts about religion and salvation the new birth did never enter my mind, neither knew I the comfort of the word and promise, nor the deceitfulness and treachery of my own wicked heart. As for secret thoughts, I took no notice of them, neither did I understand what Satan’s temptations were, nor how they were to be withstood and resisted.
Thus therefore, when I had heard and considered what they said, I left them and went about my employment again, but their talk and discourse went with me; also my heart would tarry with them, for I was greatly affected with their words, both because by them I was convinced that I wanted the true tokens of a truly godly man, and also because by them I was convinced of the happy and blessed condition of him that was such a one. Therefore I would often make it my business to be going again and again into the company of these poor people, for I could not stay away; and the more I went among them, the more I did question my condition; and as I still do remember, presently I found two things within me at which I did sometimes marvel, especially considering what a blind, ignorant, sordid, and ungodly wretch but just before I was. The one was a very great softness and tenderness of heart, which caused me to fall under the conviction of what by Scripture they asserted; and the other was a great bending in my mind to a continual meditating on it and on all other good things which at any time I heard or read of.
By these things my mind was now so turned that it lay like a horseleech at the vein, still crying out, Give, give. My mind was so fixed on eternity and on the things about the kingdom of heaven, that is, so far as I knew, though as yet God knows I knew but little, that neither pleasures, nor profits, nor persuasions, nor threats could loose it or make it let go its hold; and though I may speak it with shame, yet it is in very deed a certain truth, it would then have been as diffcult for me to have taken my mind from heaven to earth, as I have found it often since to get it again from earth to heaven.
One thing I may not omit. There was a young man in our town to whom my heart before was knit more than to any other; but he being a most wicked creature for cursing and swearing and uncleanness, I now shook him off and forsook his company. About a quarter of a year after I had left him, I met him in a certain lane and asked him how he did. He after his old swearing and mad way answered he was well. “But, Harry,” said I, “why do you curse and swear thus? What will become of you if you die in this condition ?” He answered me in a great chafe, “What would the devil do for company, if it were not for such as I am?”
About this time I met with some ranters’ books that were put forth by some of our countrymen, which books were also highly in esteem by several old professors. Some of these I read, but was not able to make any judgment about them; wherefore as I read in them and thought upon them, seeing myself unable to judge, I would betake myself to hearty prayer in this manner:
“O Lord, I am a fool and not able to know the truth from error. Lord, leave me not to my own blindness, either to approve of or condemn this doctrine. If it be of God, let me not despise it; if it be of the devil, let me not embrace it. Lord, I lay my soul in this matter only at thy feet; let me not be deceived, I humbly beseech thee”
I had one religious companion all this while, and that was the poor man I spoke of before; but about this time he also turned a most devilish ranter, and gave himself up to all manner of filthiness, especially uncleaness: he would also deny that there was a God, angel, or spirit, and would laugh at all exhortations to sobriety. When I labored to rebuke his wickedness, he would laugh the more, and pretend that he had gone through all religions, and could never hit upon the right till now He told me also, that in a little time I should see all professors turn to the ways of the ranters. Wherefore, abominating those cursed principles, I left his company forthwith, and became to him as great a stranger as I had been before a familiar.
Neither was this man only a temptation to me, but my calling lying in the country, I happened to come into several people’s company, who though strict in religion formerly, yet were also drawn away by these ranters. These would also talk with me of their ways, and condemn me as legal and dark, pretending that they only had attained to perfection, that they could do what they would and not sin. Oh, these temptations were suitable to my flesh, I being but a young man and my nature in its prime; but God, who had as I hoped designed me for better things, kept me in the fear of his name, and did not suffer me to accept such cursed principles. And blessed be God, who put it into my heart to cry to him to be kept and directed, still distrusting mine own wisdom, for I have since seen even the effects of that prayer in his preserving me not only from ranting errors, but from those also that have sprung up since. The Bible was precious to me in those days.
And now methought I began to look into the Bible with new eyes; and read as I never did before; and especially the epistles of the apostle Paul were sweet and pleasant to me; and indeed, then I was never out of the Bible, either by reading or meditation, still crying out to God that I might know the truth and the way to heaven and glory. And as I went on and read, I hit upon that passage, “To one is given by the Spirit the word of wisdom; to another, the word of knowledge by the same Spirit; to another, faith,” etc. 1 Cor. 12: 8, 9. And though I have since seen that by this scripture the Holy Ghost intends in special things extraordinary, yet on me it did then fasten with conviction that I did want things ordinary, even that understanding and wisdom that other Christians had. On this word I mused, and could not tell what to do; especially this word faith put me to it, for I could not help it, but sometimes must question whether I had any faith or no; but I was loath to conclude I had no faith, for if I do so, thought I, then I shall count myself a very castaway indeed.
No, said I with myself, though I am convinced that I am an ignorant sot, and that I want those blessed gifts of knowledge and understanding that other people have, yet at a venture I will conclude I am not altogether faithless, though I know not what faith is; for it was shown me, and that too, as I have seen since, by Satan, that those who conclude themselves in a faithless state have neither rest nor quiet in their souls, and I was loath to fall quite into despair.
Wherefore by this suggestion I was for a while made afraid to see my want of faith; but God would not suffer me thus to undo and destroy my soul, but did continually against this my sad and blind conclusion create still within me such suppositions, insomuch that I could not rest content until I did now come to some certain knowledge whether I had faith or no, this always running in my mind: “But how if you want faith indeed? But how can you tell you have faith?” And besides, I saw for certain that if I had not, I was sure to perish for ever; so that though I endeavoured at the first to overlook the business of faith, yet in a little time, I better considering the matter, was willing to put myself upon the trial whether I had faith or no. But alas, poor wretch, so ignorant and brutish was I, that I knew not to this day any more how to do it, than I knew how to begin and accomplish a rare and curious piece of art which I never yet saw or considered.
Wherefore, while I was thus considering and being put to a plunge about it, for you must know that as yet I had not in this matter broken my mind to any one, only did hear and consider, the tempter came in with this delusion, that there was no way for me to know I had faith but by trying to work some miracles, urging those scriptures that seem to look that way for enforcing and strengthening his temptation. Nay, one day, as I was between Elstow and Bedford, the temptation was hot upon me to try if I had faith by doing some miracle, which miracle at this time was this: I must say to the puddles that were in the horse-pads, Be dry, and to the dry places, Be you puddles, And truly one time I was, going to say so indeed; but just as I was about to speak, this thought came into my mind, “But go under yonder hedge and pray first that God would make you able.” But when I had concluded to pray, this came hot upon me, that if I prayed, and came again and tried to do it, and yet did nothing notwithstanding, then to be sure I had no faith, but was a castaway and lost; nay, thought I, if it be so, I will not try yet, but will stay a little longer; so I continued at a great loss, for I thought if they only had faith which could do such wonderful things, then I concluded that for the present I neither had it, nor yet for the time to come was ever like to have it. Thus I was tossed between the devil and my own ignorance, and so perplexed, especially at some times, that I could not tell what to do.
ABOUT this time the state and happiness of these poor people at Bedford were thus in a kind of vision presented to me. I saw as if they were on the sunny side of some high mountain, there refreshing themselves with the pleasant beams of the sun, while I was shivering and shrinking in the cold, afflicted with frost, snow, and dark clouds. Methought also between me and them I saw a wall that did compass about this mountain. Now through this wall my soul did greatly desire to pass, concluding that if I could I would even go into the very midst of them, and there also comfort myself with the heat of their sun. About this wall I bethought myself to go again and again, still prying as I went to see if I could find some way or passage by which I might enter therein, but none could I find for some time. At the last I saw as it were a narrow gap, like a little doorway in the wall, through which I attempted to pass. Now the passage being very strait and narrow, I made many efforts to get in, but all in vain, even until I was wellnigh quite beat out by striving to get in; at last, with great striving, methought I at first did get in my head, and after that, by a sidelong striving, my shoulders and my whole body ; then I was exceeding glad, and went and sat down in the midst of them, and so was comforted with the light and heat of their sun.
Now this mountain and wall were thus made out to me. The mountain signified the church of the living God; the sun that shone thereon, the comfortable shining of his merciful face on them that were therein: the wall I thought was the wall that did make separation between Christians and the world; and the gap that was in the wall I thought was Jesus Christ, who is the way to God the Father. John 14: 6 ; Matt. 7: 14. But forasmuch as the passage was wonderful narrow, even so narrow that I could not but with great difficulty enter in thereat, it showed me that none could enter into life but those that were in downright earnest and unless also they left that wicked world behind them, for here was only room for body and soul, but not for body and soul and sin. This resemblance abode upon my spirit many days, all which time I saw myself in a forlorn and sad condition, but yet was provoked to a vehement hunger and desire to be one of that number that did sit in the sunshine. Now also would I pray wherever I was, whether at home or abroad, in house or field; and would also often, with lifting up of heart, sing that of the fifty-first Psalm, “O Lord, consider my distress,” for as yet I knew not where it was.
Neither as yet could I attain to any comfortable persuasion that I had faith in Christ; but instead of having satisfaction here, I began to find my soul to be assaulted with fresh doubts about my future happiness, especially with such as these: Whether I was elected. But how if the day of grace should be past and gone? By these two temptations I was very much afflicted and disquieted, sometimes by one and sometimes by the other of them.
And first, to speak of that about my questioning my election, I found at this time that though I was in a flame to find the way to heaven and glory, and though nothing could beat me off from this, yet this question did so offend and discourage me that I was, especially sometimes, as if the very strength of my body also had been taken away by the force and power thereof. This scripture did also seem to me to trample upon all my desires; “It is not of him that willeth, nor of him that runneth, but of God that showeth mercy.” With this scripture I could not tell what to do, for I evidently saw, unless the great God of his infinite grace and bounty had voluntarily chosen me to be a vessel of mercy, though I should desire and long and labour until my heart did break, no good could come of it. Therefore this would stick with me: How can you tell that you are elected? And what if you are not? How then? O Lord, thought I, what if I am not indeed? It may be you are not, said the tempter. It may be so indeed, thought I. Why then, said Satan, you had as good leave off and strive no further; for if indeed you are not elected and chosen of God, there is no hope of your being saved, for “it is not of him that willeth, nor of him that runneth, but of God that showeth mercy.” Rom. 9: 16. By these things I was driven to my wits end, not knowing what to say or how to answer these temptations. Indeed, I little thought that Satan had thus assaulted me, but thought it was my own prudence thus to start the question: for that the elect only obtained eternal life, that I without scruple did heartily close withal; but that myself was one of them, there lay the question.
Thus therefore for several days I was greatly assaulted and perplexed, and was often, when I had been walking, ready to sink where I went with faintness in my mind; but one day, after I had been so many weeks oppressed and cast down therewith, as I was now quite giving up the ghost of all my hopes of ever attaining life, that sentence fell with weight upon my spirit “Look at the generations of old, and see ; did ever any trust in God, and were confounded?” at which I was greatly enlightened and encouraged in my soul, for thus at that very instant it was expounded to me: “Begin at the beginning of Genesis, and read to the end of the Revelation, and see if you can find that there was ever any that trusted in the Lord and was confounded.” So coming home, I presently went to my Bible to see if I could find that saying, not doubting but to find it presently, for it was so fresh and with such strength and comfort on my spirit, that it was as if it talked with me. Well, I looked, but found it not, only it abode upon me. Then did I ask, first this good man and then another, if they knew where it was, but they knew no such place. At this I wondered that such a sentence should so suddenly and with such comfort and strength seize and abide upon my heart, and yet that none could find it, for I doubted not but that it was in the holy Scriptures. Thus I continued above a year, and could not find the place; but at last, casting my eye upon the Apocryphal books, I found it in Ecclesiasticus, 2 : 10. This at the first did somewhat daunt me; but because by this time I had got more experience of the love and kindness of God, it troubled me the less, especially when I considered that though it was not in those texts that we call holy and canonical, yet, forasmuch as this sentence was the sum and substance of many of the promises, it was my duty to take the comfort of it; and I bless God for that word, for it was of good to me: that word doth still ofttimes shine before my face.
After this that other doubt did come with strength upon me: But how if the day of grace should be past and gone? How if you have overstood the time of mercy? Now I remember that one day as I was walking in the country, I was much in the thoughts of this: But how if the day of grace is past? And to aggravate my trouble, the tempter presented to my mind those good people of Bedford, and suggested thus unto me: that these being converted already, they were all that God would save in those parts, and that I came too late, for these had got the blessing before I came. Now was I in great distress, thinking in very deed that this might well be so; wherefore I went up and down bemoaning my sad condition, counting myself far worse than a thousand fools for standing off thus long, and spending so many years in sin as I had done, still crying out, Oh that I had turned sooner; Oh that I had turned seven years ago. It made me also angry with myself to think that I should have no more wit but to trifle away my time till my soul and heaven were lost.
But when I had been long vexed with this fear, and was scarce able to take one step more, just about the same place where I received my other encouragement, these words broke in upon my mind: “Compel them to come in, that my house may be filled; and yet there is room.” Luke 14:22. These words, but especially those, “and yet there is room,” were sweet words to me, for truly I thought that by them I saw there was place enough in heaven for me; and moreover, that, when the Lord Jesus did speak these words, he then did think of me, and that he, knowing that the time would come that I should be afflicted with fear that there was no place left for me in his bosom, did before speak this word, and leave it upon record, that I might find help thereby against this vile temptation. This I then verily believed. In the light and encouragement of this word I went for some time; and the comfort was the more when I thought that the Lord Jesus should think on me so long ago, and that he should speak those words on purpose for my sake, for I did think verily that he did on purpose speak them to encourage me withal.
But I was not without my temptations to go back again—temptations, I say, both from Satan, mine own heart, and carnal acquaintance; but I thank God these were outweighed by that sound sense of death and of the day of judgment which abode as it were continually in my view. I would often also think of Nebuchadnezzar, of whom it was said he had given him all the kingdoms of the earth. Dan. 5: 18, 19. Yet, thought I, if this great man had all his portion in this world, one hour in hell-fire would make him forget all. This consideration was a great help to me.
I was almost made about this time to see something concerning the beasts that Moses counted clean and unclean. I thought those beasts were types of men: the clean, types of them that were the people of God; but the unclean, types of such as were children of the wicked one. Now I read that the clean beast chewed the cud; that is, thought I, they show us we must feed upon the word of God. They also parted the hoof. I thought that signified we must part, if we would be saved, with the ways of ungodly men. And also, in further reading about them, I found that though we did chew the cud as the hare, yet if we walked with claws like a dog, or if we did part the hoof like the swine, yet if we did not chew the cud as the sheep, we are still for all that but unclean; for I thought the hare to be a type of those that talk of the word, yet walk in the ways of sin, and that the swine was like him that parteth with his outward pollution, but still wanteth the word of faith, without which there would be no way of salvation, let a man be ever so devout. Deut. ch. 14. After this I found, by reading the word, that those that must be glorified with Christ in another world, must be called by him here—called to the partaking of a share in his word and righteousness, and to the comforts and first-fruits of his Spirit, and to a peculiar interest in all those heavenly things which do indeed prepare the soul for that rest and house of glory which is in heaven above.
Here again I was at a very great stand, not knowing what to do, fearing I was not called; for, thought I, if I be not called, what then can do me good? None but those who are effectually called, inherit the kingdom of heaven. But Oh, how I now loved those words that spoke of a Christian’s calling; as when the Lord said to one, “ Follow me;” and to another, “Come after me;’ and Oh, thought I, that he would say so to me too; how gladly would I run after him. I cannot now express with what longings and breathings in my soul I cried to Christ to call me. Thus I continued for a time all on a flame to be converted to Jesus Christ; and did also see at that day such glory in a converted state, that I could not be contented without a share therein. Gold! could it have been gotten for gold, what would I have given for it! Had I had a whole world, it had all gone ten thousand times over for this, that my soul might have been in a converted state. How lovely now was every one in my eyes that I thought to be a converted man or woman. They shone; they walked like a people that carried the broad seal of heaven about them. Oh, I saw the lot was fallen to them in pleasant places, and that they had a goodly heritage. Psalm 16: 6.
But that which made me sick was that of Christ in Mark, “He went up into a mountain, and called to him whom he would, and they came unto him.” Mark 3:13. This scripture made me faint and fear, yet it kindled a fire in my soul. That which made me fear was this, lest Christ should have no liking to me, for he called whom he would. But Oh, the glory that I saw in that condition did still so engage my heart, that I could seldom read of any that Christ did call, but I presently wished, Would that I had been in their clothes; would that I had been born Peter; would that I had been born John; or would that I had been by and heard him when he called them how would I have cried, O Lord, call me also. But Oh, I feared he would not call me.
And truly the Lord let me go thus many months together, and showed me nothing, either that I was already or should be called hereafter; but at last, after much time spent and many groans to God that I might be made partaker of the holy and heavenly calling, that word came in upon me: “I will cleanse their blood that I have not cleansed; for the Lord dwelleth in Zion” Joel 3: 21. These words, I thought, were sent to encourage me to wait still upon God, and signified unto me, that if I were not already, yet the time might come when I might be in truth converted unto Christ.
About this time I began to break my mind to those poor people in Bedford, and to tell them my condition; which when they had heard, they told Mr. Gifford of me, who himself also took occasion to talk with me, and was willing to be well persuaded of me, though, I think, from little grounds. But he invited me to his house, where I should hear him confer with others about the dealings of God with their souls; from all which I still received more conviction, and from that time began to see something of the vanity and inward wretchedness of my wicked heart, for as yet I knew no great matter therein; but now it began to be discovered unto me, and also to work at a rate it never did before.
Now I evidently found that lusts and corruptions put forth themselves within me in wicked thoughts and desires, which I did not regard before; my desires also for heaven and life began to fail. I found also, that whereas before my soul was full of longing after God, now it began to hanker after every foolish vanity; yea, my heart would not be moved to mind that which was good; it began to be careless both of my soul and heaven. It would now continually hang back, both to and in every duty, and was as a clog upon the leg of a bird to hinder him from flying. Nay, thought I, now I grow worse and worse—now I am further from conversion than ever I was before; wherefore I began to sink greatly in my soul, and began to entertain such discouragement in my heart as laid me as low as hell. If now I should have burned at the stake I could not believe that Christ had a love for me; alas, I could neither hear him, nor see him, nor savor any of his things. I was driven as with a tempest; my heart would be unclean, and the Canaanites would dwell in the land.
Sometimes I would tell my condition to the people of God, which when they heard they would pity me, and would tell me of the promises; but they had as good have told me that I must reach the sun with my finger, as have bidden me receive or rely upon the promises, and as soon I should have done it. All my sense and feeling were against me, and I saw I had a heart that would sin, and that lay under a law that would condemn. These things have often made me think of the child which the father brought to Christ, who, while he was yet coming to him, was thrown down by the devil, and also so rent and torn by him that he lay and wallowed foaming. Mark 9: 20 ; Luke 9:42.
Further, in these days I would find my heart to shut itself up against the Lord and against his holy word. I have found my unbelief to set as it were the shoulder to the door to keep him out, and that too even then when I have with many a bitter sigh cried, Good Lord, break it open; Lord, break these gates of brass, and cut these bars of iron asunder. Psa. 107:16. Yet that word would sometimes create in my heart a peaceful pause, “I girded thee, though thou hast not known me.” Isa. 45: 5. But all this while, as to the act of sinning, I was never more tender than now; my hinder parts were inward; I durst not take a pin or stick, though but so big as a straw, for my conscience now was sore, and would smart at every touch. I could not now tell how to speak my words, for fear I should misplace them. Oh, how cautiously did I then go, in all I did or said. I found myself as in a miry bog, that shook if I did but stir, and was as there left both of God and Christ and the Spirit, and all good things.
But I observed, though I was such a great sinner before conversion, yet God never much charged the guilt of the sins of my ignorance upon me, only he showed me I was lost if I had not Christ, because I had been a sinner. I saw that I wanted a perfect righteousness to present me without fault before God, and this righteousness was nowhere to be found but in the person of Jesus Christ. But my original and inward pollution, that, that was my plague and affliction; that I saw at a dreadful rate always putting forth itself within me; that I had the guilt of to amazement; by reason of that, I was more loathsome in mine own eyes than a toad, and I thought I was so in God’s eyes too. Sin and corruption, I said, would as naturally bubble out of my heart, as water would bubble out of a fountain. I thought now that everyone had a better heart than I had. I could have changed heart with anybody. I thought none but the devil himself could equal me for inward wickedness and pollution of mind. I fell therefore, at the sight of my own vileness, deeply into despair; for I concluded that this condition that I was in could not stand with a state of grace. Sure, thought I, I am forsaken of God; sure I am given up to the devil, and to a reprobate mind. And thus I continued for a long while, even for some years together.
While I was thus aficted with the fears of my own damnation, there were two things would make me wonder. The one was, when I saw old people hunting after the things of this life as if they should live here always, the other was, when I found professors much distressed and cast down when they met with outward losses, as of husband, wife, child, etc. Lord, thought I, what ado is here about such little things as these. What seeking after carnal things by some, and what grief in others for the loss of them. If they so much labour after and shed so many tears for the things of this present life, how am I to be bemoaned, pitied, and prayed for. My soul is dying, my soul is damned. Were my soul but in a good condition, and were I but sure of it, ah, how rich should I esteem myself, though blessed but with bread and water. I should count those but small afflictions, and should bear them as little burdens. A wounded spirit who can bear?
And though I was much troubled and tossed and afflicted with the sight and sense and terror of my own wickedness, yet I was afraid to let this sight and sense go quite off my mind; for I found that unless guilt of conscience was taken off the right way, that is, by the blood of Christ, a man grew rather worse for the loss of his trouble of mind than before. Wherefore, if my guilt lay hard upon me, then would I cry that the blood of Christ might take it off; and if it was going off without it, for the sense of sin would be sometimes as if it would die and go quite away, then I would also strive to fetch it upon my heart again, by bringing the punishment of sin in hell-fire upon my spirit, and would cry, Lord, let it not go off my heart but in the right way, by the blood of Christ and the application of thy mercy through him to my soul, for that scripture did lay much upon me: “Without the shedding of blood there is no remission.” Heb. 9: 22. And that which made me the more afraid of this was, because I had seen some, who though when they were under the wounds of conscience would cry and pray, yet feeling rather present ease for their trouble than pardon for their sins, cared not how they lost their guilt, so they got it out of their minds. Now, having it got off the wrong way, it was not sanctified unto them; but they grew harder and blinder and more wicked after their trouble. This made me afraid, and made me cry to God the more that it might not be so with me. And now I was sorry that God had made me man, for I feared I was a reprobate. I counted man unconverted as the most doleful of all creatures. Thus being afflicted and tossed about my sad condition, I counted myself alone and above the most of men unblessed.
Yea, I thought it impossible that ever I should attain to so much godliness of heart as to thank God that he had made me a man. Man indeed is the most noble by creation of all creatures in the visible world; but by sin he has made himself the most ignoble. The beasts, birds, fishes, I have blessed their condition, for they had not a sinful nature ; they were not obnoxious to the wrath of God; they were not to go to hell-fire after death. I could therefore have rejoiced had my condition been as any of theirs.
IN this condition I went a great while; but when the comforting time was come, I heard one preach a sermon on these words in the Song, “Behold, thou art fair, my love; behold, thou art fair.” Song 4:1. But at that time he made these two words, “my love,” his chief subject-matter, from which, after he had a little opened the text, he drew these several conclusions: 1. That the church, and so every saved soul, is Christ’s love when loveless; 2. Christ’s love without a cause; 3. Christ’s love which hath been hated of the world; 4. Christ’s love when under temptation and under desertion; 5. Christ’s love from first to last. But I got nothing by what he said at present, only when he came to the application of the fourth particular, this was the word he said: “If it be so that the saved soul is Christ’s love when under temptation and desertion, then, poor tempted soul, when thou art assaulted and afflicted with temptations and the bidings of his face, yet think on these two words, ‘my love,’ still”
So as I was coming home, these words came again into my thoughts; and I well remember, as they came in, I said thus in my heart, What shall I get by thinking on these two words? This thought had no sooner passed through my heart, but these words began thus to kindle in my spirit: “Thou art my love, thou art my love,” twenty times together; and still as they ran in my mind they waxed stronger and warmer, and began to make me look up; but being as yet between hope and fear, I still replied in my heart, But is it true? but is it true? At which that sentence fell upon me, “He wist not that it was true which was done unto him of the angel.” Acts 12: 9.
Then I began to give place to the word, which with power did over and over make this joyful sound within my soul, “Thou art my love, thou art my love,” and nothing shall separate thee from my love. And with that my heart was filled full of comfort and hope, and now I could believe that my sins would be forgiven me; yea, I was now so taken with the love and mercy of God, that I remember I could not tell how to contain till I got home. I thought I could have spoken of his love and have told of his mercy to me, even to the very crows that sat upon the ploughed lands before me, had they been capable of understanding me; wherefore I said in my soul with much gladness, “Well, would I had a pen and ink here, I would write this down before I go any further; for surely I shall not forget this, forty years hence;” but alas, within less than forty days I began to question all again, which made me begin to question all still.
Yet still at times I was helped to believe that it was a true manifestation of grace unto my soul, though I had lost much of the life and savour of it. Now about a week or a fortnight after this I was much followed by this scripture: “Simon, Simon, behold Satan hath desired to have you.” Luke 22: 31. And sometimes it would sound so loud within me, yea, and as it were call so strongly after me, that, once above all the rest I turned my head over my shoulder, thinking verily that some man had behind me called me. Being at a great distance, methought he called so loud, it came, as I have thought since, to stir me up to prayer and to watchfulness. It came to acquaint me that a cloud and a storm were coming down upon me; but I understood it not. Also, as I remember, that time that it called to me so loud was the last time that it sounded in mine ears; but methinks I hear still with what a loud voice these words, “Simon, Simon,” sounded in mine ears. I thought verily, as I have told you, that somebody had called after me that was half a mile behind me; and although that was not my name, yet it made me suddenly look behind me, believing that he that called so loud meant me.
But so foolish was I and ignorant, that I knew not the reason of this sound, which, as I did both see and feel soon after, was sent from heaven as an alarm to awaken me to provide for what was coming, only I would muse and wonder in my mind to think what should be the reason of this scripture, and that at this rate so often and so loud it should still be sounding and rattling in my ears; but, as I said before, I soon after perceived the end of God therein; for about the space of a month after, a very great storm came down upon me, which handled me twenty times worse than all I had met with before. It came stealing upon me, now by one piece and then by another. First, all my comfort was taken from me; then darkness seized upon me; after which whole floods of blasphemies, both against God, Christ, and the Scriptures, were poured upon my spirit, to my great confusion and astonishment.
These blasphemous thoughts were such as stirred up questions in me against the very being of God and of his only beloved Son, as whether there were in truth a God or Christ, and whether the holy Scripture were not rather a fable and cunning story, than the holy and pure word of God. The tempter would also much assault me with this: “How can you tell but that the Turks had as good scriptures to prove their Mahomet the Saviour as we have to prove our Jesus? and, could I think that so many ten thousands in so many countries and kingdoms should be without the knowledge of the right way to heaven, if there were indeed a heaven, and that we only, who live in a corner of the earth, should alone be blessed therewith? Every one doth think his own religion rightest, Jews and Moors and Pagans; and how if all our faith and Christ and Scriptures should be but a think-so too?”
Sometimes I have endeavoured to argue against these suggestions, and to set some of the sentences of blessed Paul against them; but alas, I quickly felt, when I thus did, such arguings as these would return again upon me: “Though we made so great a matter of Paul and of his words, yet how could I tell but that in very deed he, being a subtle and cunning man, might give himself up to deceive with strong delusions, and also take the pains and travail to undo and destroy his fellows?”
These suggestions, with many others which at this time I may not and dare not utter, neither by word nor pen, did make such a seizure upon my spirit, and did so overweigh my heart both with their number, continuance, and fiery force, that I felt as if there were nothing else but these from morning to night within me, and as though indeed there could be room for nothing else; and also concluded that God had in very wrath to my soul given me up to them, to be carried away with them as with a mighty whirlwind; only by the distaste that they gave unto my spirit, I felt there was something in me that refused to embrace them. But this consideration I then only had when God gave me leave to swallow my spittle, otherwise the noise and strength and force of these temptations would drown and overflow and as it were bury all such thoughts or the remembrance of any such thing.
While I was in this temptation I often found my mind suddenly put upon it to curse and swear, or to speak some grievous thing against God, or Christ his Son, or of the Scriptures. Now I thought, surely I am possessed of the devil. At other times, again, I thought I should be bereft of my senses; for instead of lauding and magnifying God the Lord with others, if I but heard him spoken of, presently some most horrible blasphemous thought or other would bolt out of my heart against him; so that whether I did think that God was, or again did think there was no such thing, no love, nor peace, nor gracious disposition could I feel within me.
These things did sink me into very deep despair, for I concluded that such things could not possibly be found among them that loved God. I often, when these temptations had been with force upon me, did compare myself to the case of a child whom some gipsy hath by force took up in her arms, and is carrying from friend and country. Kick sometimes I did, and also shriek and cry, but yet I was bound in the wings of the temptation, and the wind would carry me away. I thought also of Saul, and of the evil spirit that did possess him, and did greatly fear that my condition was the same with his. 1 Sam. 16: 14.
In these days, when I have heard others talk of what was the sin against the Holy Ghost, then would the tempter so provoke me to desire to sin that sin, that I was as if I could not, must not, neither should be quiet until I had committed it. Now no sin would serve but that. If it were to be committed by the speaking of such a word, then I have been as if my mouth would have spoken that word, whether I would or no; and in so strong a measure was this temptation upon me, that often I have been ready to clap my hands under my chin to hold my mouth from opening; and to that end also I have had thoughts at other times to leap with my head downward into some muck-hole or other, to keep my mouth from speaking.
Now, again, I beheld the condition of the dog and toad, and counted the state of everything that God had made far better than this dreadful state of mine and my companions. Yea, gladly would I have been in the condition of a dog or horse, for I knew they had no soul to perish under the everlasting weight of hell or sin, as mine was like to do. Nay, and though I saw this, felt this, and was broken to pieces with it, yet that which added to my sorrow was, that, I could not find that with all my soul I did desire deliverance. That scripture did also tear and rend my soul in the midst of these distractions: “The wicked are like the troubled sea, when it cannot rest, whose waters cast up mire and dirt. There is no peace, saith my God, to the wicked” Isa. 51:20, 21,
And now my heart was at times exceeding hard. If I would have given a thousand pounds for a tear, I could not shed one; no, nor sometimes scarce desire to shed one. I was much dejected to think that this should be my lot. I saw some could mourn and lament their sin; and others, again, could rejoice and bless God for Christ; and others, again, could quietly talk of, and with gladness remember the word of God, while I only was in the storm or tempest. This much sunk me. I thought my condition was alone; I would therefore much bewail my hard hap (Ed., luck); but get out of or get rid of these things I could not.
While this temptation lasted, which was about a year, I could attend upon none of the ordinances of God but with sore and great affliction; yea, then I was most distressed with blasphemies. If I had been hearing the word, then uncleanness, blasphemies, and despair would hold me a captive there. If I had been reading, then sometimes I had sudden thoughts to question all I read; sometimes, again, my mind would be so strangely snatched away and possessed with other thing, that I have neither known, nor regarded, nor remembered so much as the sentence that but now I had read.
In prayer also I was greatly troubled at this time sometimes I thought I felt Satan behind me pull my clothes; he would be also continually at me in time of prayer, to have done: “Break off; make haste; you have prayed enough, and stay no longer;” still drawing my mind away. Sometimes also he would cast in such wicked thoughts as these: that I must pray to him, or for him. I have thought sometimes of that “fall down;” or, “If thou wilt fall down and worship me.” Matt. 4: 9. Also when, because I have had wandering thoughts in the time of this duty, I have laboured to compose my mind and fix it upon God, then with great force hath the tempter laboured to distract me and confound me, and to turn away my mind by presenting to my heart and fancy the form of a bush, a bull, a besom, or the like, as if I should pray to these. To these he would also, at some times especially, so hold my mind, that I was as if I could think of nothing else, or pray to nothing else but to these, or such as they.
Yet at times I would have some strong and heart-affecting apprehensions of God and the reality of the truth of his gospel; but Oh, how would my heart at such times put forth itself with inexpressible groanings! My whole soul was then in every word. I would cry with pangs after God, that he would be merciful unto me; but then I would be daunted again with such conceits as these: I would think that God did mock at these my prayers, saying, and that in the audience of the holy angels, “This poor simple wretch doth hanker after me, as if I had nothing to do with my mercy but to bestow it on such as he. Alas, poor soul, how art thou deceived. It is not for such as thee to have favour with the Highest.”
Then hath the tempter come upon me also with such discouragements as these: “You are very hot for mercy, but I will cool you; this frame shall not last always. Many have been as hot as you for a time, but I have quenched their zeal;” and with this, such and such who were fallen off would be set before mine eyes. Then I would be afraid that I should do so too; but, thought I, I am glad this comes into my mind. Well, I will watch, and take what care I can. “Though you do,” said Satan, “I shall be too hard for you. I will cool you insensibly, by degrees, by little and little. What care I,” saith he, “though I be seven years in chilling thy heart, if I can do it at last? Continual rocking will lull a crying child asleep. I will ply it close, but I will have my end accomplished. Though you be burning hot at present, I can pull you from this fire. I shall have you cold before it be long.”
These things brought me into great straits; for as I at present could not find myself fit for present death, so I thought, to live long would make me yet more unfit, for time would make me forget all, and wear even the remembrance of the evil of sin, the worth of heaven, and the need I had of the blood of Christ to wash me, both out of mind and thought; but I thank Christ Jesus, these things did not at present make me slack my crying, but rather did put me more upon it, like her who met with the adulterer, Dent. 22 : 27, in which days that was a good word to me, after I had suffered these things, a while: “I am persuaded that neither death, nor life, nor angels, etc., shall separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus.” Rom. 8:39. And now I hoped long life would not destroy me, nor make me miss of heaven.
I had some supports in this temptation, though they were then all questioned by me. That in Jer. 3:1, was something to me; and so was the consideration of verse four of that chapter, that though we have spoken and done as evil things as we could, yet we shall cry unto God, “My Father, thou art the guide of my youth,” and shall return unto him. I had also once a sweet glance from that in 2 Cor. 5: 21, “For he hath made him to be sin for us, who knew no sin, that we might be made the righteousness of God in him.” I remember that one day, as I was sitting in a neighbour’s house, and there very sad at the consideration of my many blasphemies, and as I was saying in my mind, “What ground have I to think that I, who have been so vile and abominable, should ever inherit eternal life?” that word came suddenly upon me: “What shall we say to these things? If God be for us, who can be against us?” That also was a help unto me: “Because I live, you shall live also.” But these words were but hints, touches, and short visits, though very sweet when present, only they lasted not, but like Peter’s sheet, of a sudden were caught up from me to heaven again. Rom. 8: 13; John 14: 19; Acts 10: 16.
But afterwards the Lord did more fully and graciously discover himself unto me, and indeed did quite not only deliver me from the guilt that by these things was laid upon my conscience, but also from the very filth thereof; for the temptation was removed, and I was put into my right mind again, as other Christians were. I remember that one day, as I was travelling into the country and musing on the wickedness and blasphemy of my heart, and considering the enmity that was in me to God, that scripture came into my mind: “Having made peace through the blood of His cross.” Col. 1: 20. By which I was made to see, both again and again, that God and my soul were friends by his blood; yea, I saw that the justice of God and my sinful soul could embrace and kiss each other, through his blood. This was a good day to me; I hope I shall never forget it.
At another time, as I sat by the fire in my house and was musing on my wretchedness, the Lord made that also a precious word unto me: “Forasmuch then as the children are partakers of flesh and blood, he also himself likewise took part of the same; that through death he might destroy him that had the power of death, that is, the devil; and deliver them who through fear of death were all their lifetime subject to bondage.” Heb. 2:14, 15. I thought that the glory of these words was then so weighty on me, that I was both once and twice ready to swoon as I sat, yet not with grief and trouble, but with solid joy and peace.
Jesus kept putting his promises before John Bunyan but faith did not come easy for him. First, he tried to ease his conscience by being good but he was never good enough – as none of us can achieve righteousness on our own. Then, he listened in on some other Christians who seemed to have a different kind of faith relationship with God than he did. They knew about joy in God which made him doubt his own condition because he did not have that kind of joy. At this time, he neither knew the comfort of God’s word in the Bible nor did he know how big the problem of sin was in his life.
God began to speak to him through Bible verses. As he read 1 Corinthians 12:8-9, he began to understand that faith is given to us by the Spirit of God: “To one is given by the Spirit the word of wisdom; to another, the word of knowledge by the same Spirit; to another, faith.” All the while, other Christians looked like they were on the sunny side of some high mountain, there refreshing themselves with the pleasant beams of the sun, while he was shivering and shrinking in the cold, afflicted with frost, snow, and dark clouds. John Bunyan struggled – hard – to break through into a new relationship with God which would be released by faith. He kept doubting and was tormented by his doubts: Did God want him to be saved? (Was he elected?) Was it not too late for him? Why did he grow cold in his passion for God? Why would he want to blaspheme God? Where were these temptations coming from? Did they not mean that he could not be saved?
God kept encouraging him with his words from the Bible:
... just about the same place where I received my other encouragement, these words broke in upon my mind: “Compel them to come in, that my house may be filled; and yet there is room.” Luke 14:22. These words, but especially those, “and yet there is room,” were sweet words to me ...
... that word came in upon me: “I will cleanse their blood that I have not cleansed; for the Lord dwelleth in Zion” Joel 3: 21. These words, I thought, were sent to encourage me to wait still upon God, and signified unto me, that if I were not already, yet the time might come when I might be in truth converted unto Christ.
Yet that word would sometimes create in my heart a peaceful pause, “I girded thee, though thou hast not known me.” Isa. 45:5.
... I heard one preach a sermon on these words in the Song, “Behold, thou art fair, my love; behold, thou art fair.” Song 4:1. But at that time he made these two words, “my love,” his chief subject-matter, ... So as I was coming home, these words came again into my thoughts; and I well remember, as they came in, I said thus in my heart, What shall I get by thinking on these two words? This thought had no sooner passed through my heart, but these words began thus to kindle in my spirit: “Thou art my love, thou art my love,” twenty times together; and still as they ran in my mind they waxed stronger and warmer, and began to make me look up; but being as yet between hope and fear, I still replied in my heart, But is it true? but is it true? At which that sentence fell upon me, “He knew not that it was true which was done unto him of the angel.” Acts 12: 9.
Then I began to give place to the word, which with power did over and over make this joyful sound within my soul, “Thou art my love, thou art my love,” and nothing shall separate thee from my love. And with that my heart was filled full of comfort and hope, and now I could believe that my sins would be forgiven me; yea, I was now so taken with the love and mercy of God, that I remember I could not tell how to contain till I got home. I thought I could have spoken of his love and have told of his mercy to me, even to the very crows that sat upon the ploughed lands before me, had they been capable of understanding me; wherefore I said in my soul with much gladness, “Well, would I had a pen and ink here, I would write this down before I go any further; for surely I shall not forget this, forty years hence;” ...
Now about a week or a fortnight after this I was much followed by this scripture: “Simon, Simon, behold Satan hath desired to have you.” Luke 22: 31. And sometimes it would sound so loud within me, yea, and as it were call so strongly after me, that, once above all the rest I turned my head over my shoulder, thinking verily that some man had behind me called me ... was sent from heaven as an alarm to awaken me to provide for what was coming ...
I had also once a sweet glance from that in 2 Cor. 5: 21, “For he hath made him to be sin for us, who knew no sin, that we might be made the righteousness of God in him.” I remember that one day, as I was sitting in a neighbour’s house, and there very sad at the consideration of my many blasphemies, and as I was saying in my mind, “What ground have I to think that I, who have been so vile and abominable, should ever inherit eternal life?” that word came suddenly upon me: “What shall we say to these things? If God be for us, who can be against us?” That also was a help unto me: “Because I live, you shall live also.” But these words were but hints, touches, and short visits, though very sweet when present, only they lasted not ...
... that scripture came into my mind: “Having made peace through the blood of His cross.” Col. 1: 20. By which I was made to see, both again and again, that God and my soul were friends by his blood; yea, I saw that the justice of God and my sinful soul could embrace and kiss each other, through his blood. This was a good day to me; I hope I shall never forget it.
At another time, as I sat by the fire in my house and was musing on my wretchedness, the Lord made that also a precious word unto me: “Forasmuch then as the children are partakers of flesh and blood, he also himself likewise took part of the same; that through death he might destroy him that had the power of death, that is, the devil; and deliver them who through fear of death were all their lifetime subject to bondage.” Heb. 2:14, 15. I thought that the glory of these words was then so weighty on me, that I was both once and twice ready to swoon as I sat, yet not with grief and trouble, but with solid joy and peace.
God kept encouraging John Bunyan with his words from the Bible and he stirred them in John’s heart by the power of the Holy Spirit. [Like he did with Martha and Mary – Jesus promises the outcome and we are to respond with faith.] However, it took time before John Bunyan came to a place where he could exercise faith – were he dared to trust the promises – but this had to happen – also for you – because without faith there is no breakthrough into salvation and the peace and joy of the children of God.
[Martha in John 11 and John Bunyan both had an intense struggle for faith. However, can we relate to John Bunyan? For us – conversions and faith seem to come so easily. A person’s response to an altar call and a few minutes of counselling seem to achieve the result. Why? Why does John Bunyan’s experience seem to be so alien to us? Today – we probably have more confidence – more faith – that conversions can be instantaneous (compare with the struggles of John Wesley).
But – on a more serious note – we may no longer fully understand the work of conversion. John Bunyan himself only suffered doubts and despair when he stopped trying to master sin on his own. Once he realized how deep his corruption went and how lost he was, then he began crying out to God. Do we today know that we are also lost and dead? Do we realize that we need a resurrection – a real conversion which comes with real trust in Jesus that he is rescuing us from sin, death and the devil? Or do we today approach conversion with the attitude of Western consumers who think that God owes them a good service? Are we broken before him – humble – and on our knees? ... Food for thought.
Salvation is a miracle that compares to the raising of Lazarus from the dead and faith in this miracle is not easier than what was required from Martha. Saving faith needs to be given, stirred and prompted by the promises of Jesus.]
The greatest miracle on earth is even bigger than the raising of Lazarus from the dead. It is the raising of you to eternal life. Lazarus came out of his grave, lived again but then also died again. You – on the other hand – according to Jesus’ promise – (though you die) will live in eternity with him. He is the resurrection and the life. He said that the one who believes in him will live. Therefore – this morning – now – believe and live. Amen.
Besides faith, Jesus used other means to raise Lazarus from the dead. After he had spoken to Martha, Jesus conversed with Mary. Like her sister, she loved Jesus and expressed her trust in Jesus that he could have saved Lazarus from dying if he had been with them at the time but now it was too late. Then, she cried and her tears stirred Jesus into action. Something happened to Jesus that lies at the heart of all miracles. I read from the Bible – John 11:32-38: “When Mary reached the place where Jesus was and saw him, she fell at his feet and said, ‘Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died.’ When Jesus saw her weeping, and the Jews who had come along with her also weeping, he experienced indignation in his spirit [or: was deeply moved in spirit] and was troubled. ‘Where have you laid him?’ he asked. ‘Come and see, Lord,’ they replied. Jesus wept ... Jesus, once more deeply moved, came to the tomb. It was a cave with a stone laid across the entrance.”
Mary’s tears – and the tears of those with her – seemed to trigger a strong emotional reaction in Jesus. The words in the original Bible language – Greek – are hard to translate – I have rendered them thus: “he experienced indignation in his spirit and was troubled” – but what is clear enough is that the emotion came with two components: compassion and also a sense of anger. We know that Jesus wept himself – he shed tears himself – and then charged ahead with the healing of a dead man that was already decaying with a bad odour. These emotions of Jesus are important; therefore listen to how a number of Bible translations understand the words that are used for Jesus: American Standard Version “Jesus groaned in the spirit, and was troubled.” Amplified Bible “Jesus was deeply moved in spirit and troubled. [He chafed in spirit and sighed and was disturbed.]” JB Phillips “he was deeply moved and visibly distressed.” The Message “ ... a deep anger welled up within him.” New International Version “Jesus was deeply moved in spirit and troubled.” New Living Translation “ ... a deep anger welled up within him, and he was deeply troubled.”
How are Jesus’ emotions connected to the miracle of raising Lazarus from the grave? We deal with the compassion side first. If you want the power of God to flow through you so that you can perform miracles, signs and wonders in Jesus’ name, then you have to learn that his power is released through love. In fact, the power is in his love because God is love – 1 John 4:16b: “God is love. Whoever lives in love lives in God, and God in him.” Love is the essence of God; therefore his power is flowing from this love. Live in that love – which means: live in God – allow his compassion to fill you – and then God can exert his love with power through you.
This is what happened to Jesus. He was overcome with compassion and wept. A reaction had come upon him which was not even from himself. As much as he loved Mary, Martha and Lazarus, there was something of the Spirit of God that moved him deeply. He allowed the emotion to come out. He wept. He did not harden himself – he did not complain about compassion fatigue – but surrendered to the heart of God who released his love for Mary, Martha and Lazarus in Jesus and – with the love of God – Jesus received the power for the miracle.
There are other Bible references which explain how it works:
Matthew 9:35-36: “Jesus went … preaching the good news of the kingdom and healing every disease and sickness. When he saw the crowds, he had compassion on them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd.”
Matthew 14:14: “When Jesus … saw a large crowd, he had compassion on them and healed their sick.”
Matthew 20:34: “Jesus had compassion on them and touched their eyes. Immediately they received their sight and followed him.”
As compassion touched Jesus – as the Spirit of God stirred up the love of God in Jesus – he received power to heal the sick. The same applies to us today. The more we grasp the love of God, the more his power is increasing in our lives – Ephesians 3:16-19: “ ... he may strengthen you with power through his Spirit in your inner being ... power ... to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, and to know this love that surpasses knowledge—that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God.”
We may learn from the following testimony:
Todd Bentley: Dynamics Of Faith, Podcast: “ … You think I just showed up in a meeting with this great faith … I had to take steps. I had to break through. Every meeting I gave an altar call and prayed for the sick and layed hands on everyone … many meetings where not one person reported any physical change. Can you imagine to pray for one thousand and no one is healed? I said: ‘God, I am going to do it again’ because God is a rewarder of those that are seeking him diligently. When I break through the first time, I’ll crack the dam … I need to get it open first … I started with my faith and my faith was pain, arthritis … that was my faith … when I got a few healings then I heard God telling me that it is time to pray for the deaf … my mum was deaf … It is time to exercise your faith muscle … you can work your way into the gift of healing … You can have a grace gift and I will give it to you because you desire it so much … You can have no healing gift but end up with a healing gift … It starts in faith but ends up in a gift … I went after healing with no call for healing, no angelic visitation, no words of knowledge … I started teaching healing and I prayed for how many deaf people (probably hundreds) and no one gets healed … In British Columbia there was a deaf woman who reminded me of my mother and even talked like my mother … and when that compassion … because I thought she was like my mother … an extra little tear in my eye, an extra emotional moment … If you don’t have compassion and love … When that love welled up because she looked like my mother and sounded like my mother … my faith worketh by love … a connection between … to love the one … When that faith rose and that love touched, she was instantly healed. From that day forward I don’t know how many thousand deaf are healed … Bring me the deaf and they get healed …
When the dead woman reminded the evangelist of his mum, there was an extra little tear in his life – an extra emotional moment – which was enough for God’s power to flow through and heal the woman’s deafness. God wants to release his power through compassion – through love – which means that we want to be stirred by his love and share in God’s emotions.
Consider also the following:
D.G.S. Dhinakaran: Gifts Of The Holy Spirit, South India: Word Of Christ, p153-154: Once a mother came to me with a strange request; by constant weeping, her eyes had sunk in, and her body was a mere “skin and bones”. Though only 45, she looked 70. Her request was this: “Sir, my two sons, aged 16 and 18, both met a calamitous end in a car accident on the same day. I keep at home the ashes of their bodies. If you come and place your hands on those ashes, they will come back to life. Please come to my house.”
On hearing these words, my heart was shattered. I was overwhelmed by despondency with this thought, “If only I have the same compassion and power which the Lord Jesus Christ had, I too, with his might which raised the dead Lazarus, four days after his death, can do this. But I don’t have the millionth part of His love and might!” I did not know how to answer the request of that weeping mother. But, the next moment, the Lord’s unparalleled love overflowed in my heart. Embracing the mother, I shared the word of wisdom, given by the Lord with her. I told her: “My dear sister! I too was crying like you, two years ago; the reason was that my beloved 17-year-old daughter Angel, died in a horrible car accident like your children. Even today, agony swells up in the depth of my heart, when I think of her.”
The lady was wonder-struck at my words; she asked me in surprise, “You too have lost your daughter! Really!” I said, “Yes!” and added, “Yet, the Lord who gave up His life on the cross has miraculously comforted my wife and me.” Then I prayed for her; a divine comfort filled her heart.
D.G.S. Dhinakaran: Gifts Of The Holy Spirit, South India: Word Of Christ, p208-209: Once, because of tribulations resulting from the ministry, I was sore depressed. “To die is better than to live” was my haunting thought. One day the Holy Spirit filled me with his power immeasurably and took me to heaven. There the Lord introduced me to the apostle Peter and told him, “Peter, take him around and what I saw everywhere, sent me into raptures. Peter, on the way, was narrating how he met Jesus in the world, what different experiences he had with Jesus, what his weaknesses were and how Jesus helped him in spite of his weaknesses. Finally he consoled me by posing this question: “Will not Jesus Christ who helped me to complete this ministry in the world, in spite of my weaknesses, help you too?” I was thrilled and encouraged.
At last, Peter brought me back to the throne of Jesus. Jesus asked me with a smile, “Would you like to stay here forever?” Who would not like to stay in Heaven, where there is no sorrow or pain or tears or tribulation? I was about to say, “Yes!” However, the Holy Spirit thrust into my heart, at this crucial moment, a great burden for the great number of people in the world whose souls are perishing due to grievous, distressing problems in life, with no one to comfort them or care for them. That burden crushed me. I could literally hear their wailings and mournings rising up to heaven from the world. So, I replied, without any hesitation, “Lord! If I choose to remain here, who is there to pray for the suffering and mourning people? Who will show them your compassion? So, let me go back.” Accordingly, the Lord sent me back to this world.
Compassion – a crushing burden for the lost – made this pastor choose earth rather than heaven and this happened as the Holy Spirit thrust into his heart the very heart of God because – in the same way – even more so – God – Jesus (the Son of God) – chose earth rather than heaven – for our sake. Love made him come and release the power of salvation for us through his sacrifice on the cross – the greatest display of love and power that we will ever know. God loves you and his power is for you.
John 3:16: “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.”
Now we come to the second aspect of Jesus’ emotion when he was “deeply moved in his spirit”. He not only felt compassion and wept. He also became upset with a sense of aggression and anger – righteous indignation. He became stirred up over Lazarus’ death and this was necessary because – without a sense of injustice – (Lazarus died before his time) – without a sense of anger that draws a line in the sand against evil – you do not rise up against impossible odds. There is something about righteous indignation that makes you bold so that you have a go praying for a corpse that has been four days in the grave. You need the aroused passion of God to flow through your veins to tackle abortion in our country – to stand up for righteousness on television – to speak against divorce – to make a stand that there is right and wrong (truth and lies) and Jesus is the truth. Unless God puts something of a lion in us, we won’t ever dare to stand up and attempt anything because miracles always seem impossible.
[Can you also see how this emotion of anger – aggressive boldness – is connected to the emotion of compassion? They belong together – they were one in Jesus – because when evil threatens the ones you love, you rise up in angry warfare. Just watch a mother when anyone or anything threatens her children. Then, mothers know no fear. They are bold. You can imagine that God is like that when anything threatens you.
In war – men work with their anger when they charge the enemy with loud war cries – yelling as they run. The release of the aggression through yelling drowns out any other feelings – such as fear or doubt in one’s own abilities.
Some people are so insecure that they always look for a fight because the emotion of anger gives them direction for a brief moment.]
God stirred Jesus with his righteous indignation to set him up for the miracle of raising Lazarus and what happened to Jesus, will happen to us. The Bible provides a few case studies for us:
1 Samuel 10:22-24: So they inquired further of the LORD, “Has the man come here yet?” And the LORD said, “Yes, he has hidden himself among the supplies.” They ran and brought him out, and as he stood among the people he was a head taller than any of the others. Samuel said to all the people, “Do you see the man the LORD has chosen? There is no one like him among all the people.” Then the people shouted, “Long live the king!”
1 Samuel 11:1-11: Nahash the Ammonite went up and besieged Jabesh Gilead. And all the men of Jabesh said to him, “Make a treaty with us, and we will be subject to you.” But Nahash the Ammonite replied, “I will make a treaty with you only on the condition that I gouge out the right eye of every one of you and so bring disgrace on all Israel.” The elders of Jabesh said to him, “Give us seven days so we can send messengers throughout Israel; if no one comes to rescue us, we will surrender to you.”
When the messengers came to Gibeah of Saul and reported these terms to the people, they all wept aloud. Just then Saul was returning from the fields, behind his oxen, and he asked, “What is wrong with everyone? Why are they weeping?” Then they repeated to him what the men of Jabesh had said.
When Saul heard their words, the Spirit of God came powerfully upon him, and he burned with anger. He took a pair of oxen, cut them into pieces, and sent the pieces by messengers throughout Israel, proclaiming, “This is what will be done to the oxen of anyone who does not follow Saul and Samuel.” Then the terror of the LORD fell on the people, and they came out together as one ...
The next day Saul separated his men into three divisions; during the last watch of the night they broke into the camp of the Ammonites and slaughtered them until the heat of the day. Those who survived were scattered, so that no two of them were left together.
There was no way that a shy young man – (hiding among the luggage when they wanted to make him king) – ploughing a field instead of acting like the king – with fickle support from his own people – could take on and defeat an enemy army. Yet, when the Spirit of God came upon him, Saul burned with anger – holy indignation at injustice – and this hot passion made him courageous – blocking out anything that was timid in him – any unbelief. In the face of impossible odds – wait for God to stir you up in this fashion.
Acts 4:29-31: “Now, Lord, consider their threats and enable your servants to speak your word with great boldness. Stretch out your hand to heal and perform signs and wonders through the name of your holy servant Jesus.” After they prayed, the place where they were meeting was shaken. And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and spoke the word of God boldly.
Now some modern testimonies which are confirming the Spirit’s operation in us:
In 2010, Pastor Save Nakauyaca told us the story of the way God used him to raise a woman from the dead. We had to prise the story out of him but when we finally heard the account, there was much laughter from him and his dad (Pastor Vuniani) and others in the church. They enjoyed what God had done.
They were doing another Healing The Land process (based on 2 Chronicles 7:14) in a village. (This involves ministry by a larger group of praying people, house visitations, much repentance, public confession, preaching, etc.) A woman died at about 5pm and they brought her into the meeting – dead – at about 7pm. However, by then Save was in the midst of preaching the Word of God. When the dead woman was brought in, all attention was focused on her and the expectation was to deal with her. Just then Save experienced that some righteous indignation came upon him. With boldness – he assured the congregation that he would pray for the woman later and that she would live again. He also said: “First listen to the Word of God and make the dead woman also sit on a chair. Let the dead also hear the Word of God.” This is what they did even though the woman was already in a “body-bag” and needed a person on either side to keep her head from falling down.
At the end of the preaching, he had an altar call for salvation and then prayed for all the sick. Finally – at about 10pm – he prayed for the dead woman. It did not take long and she took a deep noisy breath and came back to life. There was much joy and this miracle opened up another three villages to enter into the Healing the Land process. See Vuniani Nakauyaca & Walo Ani: Healing The Land. A Manual For Teachers, Editors: Deryck & Nancy Thomas, Toowoomba: TC Books 2009
From http://canecreekchurch.org/index.php/what-is-your-legacy/38-smith-wigglesworth (accessed December 2011):
The first person Wigglesworth prayed from the dead was a friend. Brother Mitchell was at the point of death when Smith was called by his wife to come to the Mitchell home. When he arrived he heard terrible screams. He asked Mrs. Mitchell what was wrong? She replied, “He is gone! He is gone!” Smith entered the room and saw that the man was dead. In the room was Polly, Smiths wife, and the doctor who had just verified the time of death. Smith didn’t understand it but immediately he began to pray. Wigglesworth’s wife grabbed his arm and said, “Don’t Smith! Don’t you see that he is dead.” Smith continued to pray and then God took over. A heavy peace filled the room and Smith shouted, “He lives! He lives! He Lives!” Mr. Mitchell sat up and stared at all those in the room with their eyes and mouths wide open. The first words out of the doctor’s mouth were, “This is God!”
Another time, Smith was in a hospital room with a friend, a doctor, and the husband of the woman he was praying for in the bed. While he and his friend were praying for the women she died. The doctor confirmed her death and was pulling the sheet over her face when he said, “she was such a young thing, God’s will.” Indignation rose up in Smith, premature death was the work of the devil, not God, so therefore it must be destroyed. He then took the women out of the bed and stood her against the wall. Everyone was so dumb-struck they didn’t know what to do. [Notice how the strong emotion of indignation and boldness leads to bold actions.]
We let Wigglesworth tell us his version: “My friend said, ‘She is dead.’ He was scared. I have never seen a man so frightened in my life. ‘What shall I do?’ He asked. You may think that what I did was absurd, but I reached over into the bed and pulled her out. I carried her across the room, stood her up against the wall and held her up with my arm, as she was absolutely dead. I looked into her face and said, ‘In the name of Jesus, I rebuke this death.’ I repeated it again. From the soles of her feet her whole body began to tremble. ‘In the name of Jesus, I command you to walk,’ I said. I repeated, ‘in the name of Jesus, in the name of Jesus, walk!’ and she walked.”
The women’s name was Mary Pople and she relates her version of the story: “I went to heaven and was allowed into the throne room. I saw the Lord sitting on His throne. I saw light such as I had never seen and heard music such as I had never heard. My heart was filled with rapturous joy. As I looked at the Lord, he pointed to what seemed to be a doorway by which I had entered, and I knew I had to go back even if I did not want to. When I went through the door, I heard a gruff voice. He was saying, ‘Death, I rebuke you in the name of Jesus.’ Then he commanded me to live, and my eyes opened, and those who had been weeping around my bed began to rejoice. I arose and got dressed totally healed of the sickness that was unto death.”
Word spread throughout the community like wild fire. The next Sunday Smith, Mary and her husband went to her church to testify of the mighty work the Lord had done. When they entered the church, the pastor stood up, motioned to the ushers to escort them back out the door saying, “We will have none of that here.” [Notice that this is the same rejection that Jesus experienced in response to his miracles.]
To elaborate more on that story George Stormont relates this incident:”Bishop Ronald Coady and his wife were ministering in New South Wales, Australia, in 1950 where they met a Methodist deaconess from America called ‘Sister Mary’. She brought them large quantities of tracts to use in their crusades. While there they were reading Stanley Frodsham’s book, Smith Wigglesworth, Apostle of Faith. The incident of his raising a young women from the dead especially had gripped them, and when Sister Mary came in, they read it to her, adding, ‘How we should love to meet that lady!’ She said, ‘You know that lady.’ They protested that they did not, but she persisted, ‘You’ve known her for some time, I am that lady!’ The three of them laughed together with joy at God’s goodness and coincidences.” She then proceeded to tell them of that miracle back in 1922.
In 1913, while Smith was waiting for a train to leave for Scotland, he received devastating news. His wife, Polly, had collapsed with a heart attack while preaching at their mission. She was pronounced dead at the mission door. Smith hurried back to his home where they had taken the body. When he arrived: “The house was already full of people. The doctor said, ‘She is dead, and we can do no more for her.’ I went up to her lifeless corpse and commanded, in the name of Jesus, death to give her up, and she came back to me for a moment. Astonishment filled the house and everyone including Wigglesworth’s grown children were speechless. As Polly opened her eyes, Smith’s face was streaked with tears and she said, “Smith, it is my time, the Lord wants me.” Heartbroken he replied, “If the Lord wants you I will not hold you.” He stepped back, she closed her eyes and was again in her Saviour’s arms. She had been the light and joy of all their years of marriage, and he grieved deeply over the loss. Smith, when he released Polly to God, asked Him for a double portion of the Spirit...his wife’s and his own. From that moment on his ministry carried an even greater power.
Jesus had declared to Mary and Martha – John 11:4: “This sickness [of Lazarus] will not end in death. No, it is for God’s glory so that God’s Son may be glorified through it.” Then, he proceeded to perform the miracle of raising him from the dead. So far – we have learned that Jesus wanted to work with the faith of Mary and Martha and required them to roll the stone from Lazarus’ grave – even though there was already an odour. Then, Jesus allowed himself – by the Spirit of God – to be moved with compassion for those he loved and righteous indignation which made him attack with boldness the curse of death.
There are two more ingredients in the working of the miracle. I read again from the Bible account – John 11:41-44: “So they took away the stone. Then Jesus looked up and said, ‘Father, I thank you that you have heard me. I knew that you always hear me, but I said this for the benefit of the people standing here, that they may believe that you sent me.’ When he had said this, Jesus called in a loud voice, ‘Lazarus, come out!’ The dead man came out, his hands and feet wrapped with strips of linen, and a cloth around his face ... ”
Jesus looked up to heaven and prayed. He had prayed previously but now demonstrated again how God the Father was on his side and had sent him – as he is sending us now: “Father, I thank you that you have heard me. I knew that you always hear me, but I said this for the benefit of the people standing here, that they may believe that you sent me.” After he prayed, Jesus spoke a word of authority – in a loud voice. He shouted a command: “Lazarus, come out!” With these two actions – his praying and speaking words of authority – Jesus modelled to us what we are to do in performing a miracle: Pray and speak the word.
These two actions flow out of our identity as a kingdom of priests to our God:
Exodus 19:6: “you will be for me a kingdom of priests and a holy nation ... ”
1 Peter 2:9: “But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God’s special possession, that you may declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light.”
Revelation 1:6: “ . has made us to be a kingdom and priests to serve his God and Father ... ”
Revelation 5:9-10: “ ... you were slain, and with your blood you purchased for God persons from every tribe and language and people and nation. You have made them to be a kingdom and priests to serve our God, and they will reign on the earth.”
As a kingdom of priests we pray – as you would expect priests to pray – and we exercise authority – as you would expect royal priests (kings) to exercise authority. In another Bible reference, we learn in more detail the authority that we have received. Jesus said:
Matthew 16:19: “I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven; whatever you bind on earth will have been bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will have been loosed in heaven.”
As a kingdom of priests, the keys to the kingdom of heaven are ours. As we speak the word – we bind or loose – open or shut – allow or disallow – on earth what God has determined in heaven. God is taking the initiative. First, there is a binding and loosing in heaven – in the spiritual realm – but then – as royal priests – we have the keys to manifest these spiritual advancements here on earth. I rephrase the Bible verse to make this absolutely clear:
Matthew 16:19: “I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven; whatever will have been bound in heaven you bind on earth, and whatever will have been loosed in heaven you loose on earth.”
[Cf. Matthew 18:18-19; John 20:21-23: Again Jesus said, “Peace be with you! As the Father has sent me, I am sending you.” And with that he breathed on them and said, “Receive the Holy Spirit. If you forgive anyone’s sins, their sins are forgiven; if you do not forgive them, they are not forgiven.”]
See also John 5:17-21: “ … My Father is always at his work to this very day, and I, too, am working … the Son can do nothing by himself; he can do only what he sees his Father doing, because whatever the Father does the Son also does. For the Father loves the Son and shows him all he does … ”
John 6:63: “ … The words I have spoken to you are spirit and they are life.”
This principle was already operational before Jesus came – Amos 3:7: “Surely the Sovereign LORD does nothing without revealing his plan to his servants the prophets.” See also Ezekiel 37:1-10.
Jeremiah 1:9-10: “Then the LORD reached out his hand and touched my mouth and said to me, ‘I have put my words in your mouth. See, today I appoint you over nations and kingdoms to uproot and tear down, to destroy and overthrow, to build and to plant.’” Cf. Isaiah 6:5-13.
Revelations 19:11-16: “I saw heaven standing open and there before me was a white horse whose rider is called Faithful and True … on his head are many crowns … his name is the Word of God … Out of his mouth comes a sharp sword with which to strike down the nations … On his robe and on his thigh he has this name written: King of kings and Lord of lords.”
Ephesians 6:17: “ … the sword of the Spirit . is the word of God.”
James 1:18: “God chose to give us birth through the word of truth … ”
I come to a close and summarize some of the teaching points. What is required to perform a miracle? 1) We are commissioned to do the works of Jesus and even greater ones. 2) Miracles are evidence of power which force a decision for Jesus and are therefore resented by many. 3) Sometimes Jesus delays miracles to bring greater glory to God. Lazarus had to die for the greater miracle of his resurrection. 4) Jesus said: “The sickness of Lazarus is for God’s glory so that God’s Son may be glorified through it.” 5) Jesus required faith for the miracle. He commanded the people to move the stone from the grave (after four days) and met Martha’s objection with the words
: “Did I not tell you that if you believed, you would see the glory of God?” 6) Compassion with tears and righteous indignation release the power of God. 7) As a kingdom of priests, we pray and speak the word of authority.
I may add that Jesus performed the miracle to bring glory to God and himself. Therefore, he did not encourage any worship of the miracle. He told the people after they had received Lazarus back – John 11:44: “ ... Take off the grave clothes and let him go.” Let him go – let the miracle go – and listen to Jesus.
There’s much for us to learn but the good news is that God wants the miracles to happen – by his power – to his glory. Therefore – dream about the impossible. He builds your faith. He makes his compassion overflow in your heart and his anger at evil. He listens to your prayer and he backs up the word of authority that you speak in his name. Miracles happen by faith, compassion and righteous indignation, prayer and words of authority. Do them for him. Amen.
 John 5:8-9: “Then Jesus said to him: ‘Get up! Pick up your mat and walk.’ At once the man was cured; he picked up his mat and walked.”
 See also Acts -12: “God did extraordinary miracles through Paul, so that even handkerchiefs and aprons that had touched him were taken to the sick and their illnesses were cured and the evil spirits left them.”
 http://www.letusreason.org/pent33.htm: Kenneth Hagin tells a series of incredible tales about unusual healings he has done when “peculiar anointings” have been manifest in his ministry: Several times the anointing has come on me to do unusual things while praying for the sick. Sometimes I go along five or six years between times. The first time it happened to me was in 1950. 1 was preaching in Oklahoma. A woman came forward for prayer. She said she was 72, but she looked like she was about to give birth to a baby. Of course, she had a tumour. I started to lay hands on her to pray when the Word of the Lord came to me, saying, “Hit her in the stomach with your fist.” On the inside of me, I said, “Lord, You’re going to get me in trouble, going around hitting women in the stomach with my fist! I don’t believe I much want to do that!” Well, if you get to arguing about it, the anointing will leave you-it will lift from you just like a bird flying away after sitting on your shoulder. It left me. When it left me I thought, Well, I’ll go ahead and minister with laying on of hands. I laid hands on her again and the anointing came again and the Word of the Lord came again: “Hit her in the stomach with your fist.” The Lord is saying to Hagin not to pray, but to punch!
I decided I had better stop and explain that to the crowd before I started doing it. So I told them what the Lord said, and I punched her in the stomach with my fist. And God and hundreds of people are my witnesses that that stomach went down like you’d stuck a pin in a balloon. (Hagin, Understanding the Anointing, 114-115).
Hagin tells of another man he was told to hit in the head and a young female college student he hit in the kidney. (Hagin, Understanding the Anointing p.116-117) … Rodney Browne also has a story of him slapping a deaf person so hard the person fell flat on the floor. And it worked! The deaf person got up totally healed.(Flowing in the Holy Ghost p.53, R.H.B quoted in counterfeit Revival H. Hanegraaff).